Power outage forces 500 UB students from Red Jacket

Shelter and cots provided in Alumni Arena for displaced students


Approximately 500 students were forced out of Red Jacket Hall, one of the six quadrangles in the Ellicott Complex, Wednesday after a frozen sprinkler head caused a power outage. Cold temperatures caused a sprinkler line to break and drip water into an electrical room, which damaged a single panel that shut down the electricity and heat in the building Wednesday around 7 a.m. Power returned around 11 p.m. that night and students were allowed to re-enter building early Thursday morning.

“The University’s Emergency Plan was activated and within several hours and arrangements were made to house up to 500 students in Alumni [Arena] Triple Gym,” said UB Chief of Police Gerald Schoenle in an email.

Students who spoke with The Spectrum said they were mostly satisfied with how UB accommodated them after the power outage. Only some wished they had been notified of the mandatory evacuation in a better way.

Students were mandated to vacate Red Jacket by 9 p.m. Wednesday night due to safety concerns.

“No lights except for stairwell. No power. No elevators. No heat. Not safe,” said Dennis Black, vice president for University Life and Services.

UB provided around 500 cots through the American Red Cross and Erie County emergency services inside the Triple Gym, and University Police patrolled the gym throughout the night. Schoenle said UPD had three officers and a supervisor, as well as 18 Campus Living staff members on duty. The gym can hold up to 1,000 people, according to Schoenle.

Media was not allowed inside to take photos on Wednesday night.

“Because it’s a bedroom,” Black said. “We don’t invite people into your bedroom in Red Jacket and we don’t invite people into your bedroom in the Triple Gym.”

Busing was provided to students from Red Jacket to Alumni Arena so they could grab their belongings. The housing of students in the Triple Gym did not affect the women’s basketball team’s game against Kent State in the main gym of Alumni Arena, which was played as scheduled at 7 p.m.

One student said she expected the experience to be bad but said it was actually comfortable. Wenyi Fan, a senior biological sciences major, said it was cold inside the gym.

Only about 50 of the approximately 500 students displaced slept in Alumni Arena, however, as many students stayed with friends in other residence halls or apartments.

“I’d rather be more comfortable than sleeping in a cot,” said Brian Hiciano, a sophomore exercise science major who slept in a friend’s apartment. “I’d rather be staying with a friend with actual company than just sleeping by random people.”

Black said students were asked to notify their Resident Adviser (RA) where they were staying Wednesday night, so the university could make sure everyone was taken care of and so they could be contacted if conditions changed. Black admitted he thought every student probably didn’t do so.

Schoenle said UPD had increased presence in Red Jacket throughout Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. Black said UPD and Campus Living officials did a sweep of the building and there was staff in the building all night helping students receive their belongings. Schoenle said if a student refused to leave the building, they could be referred to Student-Wide Judiciary (SWJ), but officers patrolling Red Jacket reported no problems.

Some students who spoke with The Spectrum were not satisfied with how they were notified or how they had to evacuate the building. An email was sent out to students that they must leave the building by 9 p.m., but some students were not able to see the email because there was no Internet connection in Red Jacket because of the power outage.

One student who wished to remain anonymous, said she was surprised that her RA’s did not come around to each individual room to notify students they had to leave by 9 p.m. She didn’t discover she had to evacuate until around 7 p.m., after going to Lockwood Library to charge her laptop and two RA’s outside Red jacket notified her.

“But had I not gone outside, I wouldn’t have known that,” she said. “I thought that was a little unprofessional because I had planned to stay inside. If I didn’t have to charge up I wouldn’t have come across them.”

She said signs could have been posted to notify students of the mandatory evacuation.

Alex Aponte, a sophomore exercise science major, said he too was unaware it was mandatory to leave Red Jacket, and was in the building past the 9 p.m. deadline to leave.

“I didn’t understand when we had to leave,” he said. “I was in my room at like 9:30.”

Crossroads Culinary Center (C3), a dining hall located in Red Jacket, was closed down due to the power outage Wednesday night. The Ellicott Food Court and Governors Dining Hall doubled personnel working at food stations and expanded service times. A designated shuttle ran from Ellicott to Governors Residence Hall from 4:45 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Students sleeping in Alumni were provided “a boxed breakfast,” with a grapefruit and a bagel. The water and power were not running in time for C3 to open for breakfast Thursday morning, but Black said C3 was fully staffed and operational for dinner Thursday night.

Black also said instructors were advised to accommodate students affected by the power outage.

The last time this many students were displaced was in 2006 during the Buffalo October storm. Approximately 900-1,000 students on South Campus were moved onto North Campus.

Aponte said he was not upset with UB for the power outage, saying “those things sort of happen,” and he was surprised he’d hadn’t seen a power outage happen in the dorms yet.

Hiciano said he hopes the university will prepare better in the future to ensure a power outage does not happen again due to winter conditions.

“I just hope they would have prepped better for the cold and not having a pipe first considering we’re in Buffalo and you figured it would be cold and you take steps to make sure something like that doesn’t happen,” he said.

email: news@ubspectrum.com